Where do all the cooties go? : how maternal repartnering characteristics impact children's romantic interest and involvement



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This project explores the link between exposure to family instability through maternal repartnering and the development of romantic interest and involvement during childhood and preadolescence. Family instability has long reaching consequences, especially for children's well being. Exposure to family instability spills over into children's own lives, implying parents and children's lives are inextricably linked. The actions, experiences, and choices of parents have a direct and measurable impact on children's lives, as evidenced by links between parents' marital lives and their offspring's romantic involvement during adolescence and adulthood. The goal of this project is twofold. First, I build on this literature to explore how maternal repartnering impacts children's romantic interest and involvement. Through various mechanisms such as increased awareness of romance or searching for a substitute in response to maternal repartnering, I expect children's romantic interest and involvement will be associated with maternal repartnering behaviors and attitudes. The second goal of this project explores this association among a sample of children and preadolescents, examining this link during an earlier period in the life course than existing literature. This includes an in depth examination of the characteristics and developmental trajectories of romantic interest and involvement beginning at age five and extending to age 13. Results suggest that romantic interest and involvement emerges during childhood and is associated with both individual and family level characteristics. As children mature, they report substantially greater levels of romantic involvement with each passing year. Changes in romantic involvement correspond to greater social and pubertal development. Children's reports of romantic interest did not show developmental change but were relatively stable over time. There were no consistent effects of maternal repartnering on children's romantic involvement. Children's romantic interest was linked with maternal repartnering attitudes however. Higher levels of maternal focus on repartnering were associated with greater romantic interest among children, suggesting that maternal repartnering does impact children's romantic trajectories.